‘Urban’ no more: black British music execs call for industry reforms

Open letter from new group seeks action on racism and better career development.

A collective of senior black music industry executives from companies including Warner, Sony, Universal Music Group, BMG, Live Nation, Spotify and the Music Managers Forum has published an open letter to business leaders calling for immediate action on racism and marginalisation within the sector.

The newly formed Black Music Coalition welcomed industry statements of support on last week’s #BlackoutTuesday, a music industry-endorsed day of reflection during the ongoing global Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but said that it was time to transform that support into “tangible changes”.

The letter states: “The music industry has long profited from the rich and varied culture of black people for many generations but overall, we feel it has failed to acknowledge the structural and systematic racism affecting the very same black community and so effectively, enjoying the rhythm and ignoring the blues.”

A diversity report commissioned by UK Music in 2018 found that ethnic minorities represented 17.8% of roles within the British music industry. While 25.9% of workers age 16-24 age bracket are from an ethnic minority, that number drops steadily to just 11.4% in the 45-64 age bracket, indicating low representation at senior levels.

A push for industry diversity had resulted in a lot of black employees in entry-level positions, said Char Grant, a senior A&R manager at BMG. “But the support structure and the infrastructure for development hasn’t been there so they’ve been left to work it out for themselves. That can be quite a difficult place when you’re not supported.”

The coalition, which formed over WhatsApp, has called for the implementation of specific career development programmes for black staff to advance future generations of leaders. It asked for change regarding the lack of black staff in senior management and the complete absence of black female presidents and chairwomen across the industry.

Read full article via The Guardian here.


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